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Global dirge heard

Piracy raiding music biz as world sales dip 11%

Illegal file-swapping and other commercial piracy continues to eat into global music sales, says recording industry body the IFPI, which Wednesday reported that world sales of recorded music sales dropped 10.9% (a 10.7% unit decline) for the first half of 2003.

Interim sales of all audio and musicvideo formats fell to $12.7 billion, compared with $14.3 billion for the same period in 2002.

Top-selling albums in the first half of this year included Christina Aguilera’s “Stripped,” 50 Cent’s “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” Coldplay’s “A Rush of Blood to the Head” and Celine Dion’s “One Heart.”

Dip was slightly offset by a 55% hike in DVD musicvideo sales as well as a “marked increase in the availability of legitimate online music, with 300,000 tracks now on offer online.” Europe now claims more than 30 Web sites selling legit online music via pay-per-unit or monthly subscription, which should take a larger chunk of sales in the future. Sales of DVD musicvideos now constitute 5% of global music sales.

The first six months of the year typically account for around 40% of annual sales. Labels are optimistic that upcoming releases from hot artists like Beyonce and Nickelback as well as usually strong sellers such as Bon Jovi, David Bowie, Pink, REM and Sting should boost the balance of the year.

Big countries hit

But the IFPI isn’t letting its guard down, noting that Internet piracy is taking its toll on the top markets. “Germany, Japan, the U.S. and Canada have seen the numbers of unauthorized downloads of tracks and copied CDs reach, and in some cases exceed, the levels of legitimate track and CD album sales,” the IFPI said.

Isolated sales growth in some markets such as Norway, the U.K., Spain and Russia (thanks to the continued transition from cassette to CD) encouraged some. Genre-wise, Latin music is enjoying a revival in the U.S., with sales up 29%; value of jazz sales rose a whopping 35%.

IFPI counts as members more than 1,500 record companies, including independents and majors, in more than 70 countries.

(Debra Johnson in London contributed to this report.)

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